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Thursday, March 27, 2014
THURSDAY CARDINAL COUPLE - Reader Gary Witherspoon looks at the HBO Special, Rez life, Umatilla and the Schimmel sisters - Louisville softball takes two against DePaul
Louisville WBB team nearly played that perfect game that Jeff has been talking
about for some weeks. There were a few defensive lapses in the first few
minutes of the game that led to four easy baskets for Iowa, and the reserves
made a few miscues at the end, but otherwise it was the best game of the
season. Only the game at Ball State might have been played more nearly perfect,
but the competition and the significance of this game was much greater than the
Ball State game.
was a tough night for Sara Hammond who could not seem to do anything right, and
Asia was limited by foul trouble. The officials called the game extremely
last night I saw HBO Real Sports with
Bryant Gumbel and their feature on the Schimmel sisters. I am going to try to
offer a short review of that. I know something about the subject. I was a
professor of Anthropology and American Indian Studies at the University of
Washington for 25 years, and I was a head BB coach at the Navajo Academy for 5
years. I played in Rez ball tournaments for over 20 years in the Southwest, and
my son played in many Rez ball tournaments in the Northwest more recently. I
had many students from the Umatilla reservation and have taken classes there on
field trips. It is not the place these films make it out to be.
The reservation is an absolutely beautiful place of
over 200,000 acres. It is not a cesspool of abject poverty that people want to
escape. Since the Wildhorse Casino, motel and related businesses were created,
jobs and income have been reasonably good for most tribal members. They have a
beautiful multimillion dollar tribal museum that tells their history, language
and culture. They have lots of recreation facilities. Housing is modest but
good, and life there is comfortable and friendly.
Leaving the Rez is not such a challenge because life
there is so bad but more because it is so good. While there are problems there
as there are problems everywhere, it is not the ugly place of despair and abject
poverty the films made by non-Indians want to portray it to be. But the journey
off the rez that Shoni and Jude took, nevertheless, involved a big challenge and
represented a huge leap of faith for Shoni and Jude. The journey involved
leaving a beautiful place, a rich traditional culture and and all their
relatives and friends to go 2,000 miles away to a big city university and try to
succeed in the rigors and demands of higher education and try to compete at the
highest level of college athletics. Native Americans understand the
difficulties and hazards of this journey and appreciate what Shoni and Jude have
done and take inspiration from it. These film makers are putting their own spin
on it and much of that spin is inaccurate.
Also, a lot of non-Indians seem to think Shoni and
Jude are big because Native Americans do not have any other big time sports
heroes. That is not true. Recent Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford is NA from
Oklahoma, and he was the first overall pick in the NFL draft. And Jacoby
Ellsbury from the Warm Springs Rez near Shoni’s led Oregon State to the College
World Series championship, and was a prominent part of the Boston Red Sox’s two
World Series championships in the last 7 years. Notah Begay, a teammate and
close friend of Tiger Woods, won two tournaments and was rookie of the year of
the PGA tour before his golf career was cut short because of an injury to his
back. All of these athletes have appeared at Native American events and given
free clinics in Native American communities.
Angel Goodrich led 12 seed Kansas to two big upsets
in last year’s NCAA tournament, and she made it to the sweet 16. She is Native
American from Oklahoma and has appeared with Jude at many events. She beat out
Skylar Diggins for Tulsa’s starting point guard position in the WNBA last
So why are Shoni and Jude so big among Native
Americans? I think there are several reasons. One is they play Rez ball and
are proud of it, and basketball is really big on reservations and even in urban
Indian communities. Golf, football and baseball are not as big as basketball in
contemporary NA culture. In Arizona 25,000 Navajos will travel over 200 miles
to watch their girls basketball teams compete for and usually win the state 3A
championship. Boys teams also attract big crowds, but the girls teams get just
as big or bigger crowds. Two high schools on the Rez have field houses that
seat 5500 and 7500 respectively and they fill them up. A new high school gym on
the Navajo reservation is now under construction that will seat over 10,000.
These are better facilities than most college teams play in.
Shoni and Jude’s popularity also involves who they
are and how they conduct themselves and how they respect and embrace the
communities from which they came and with which they identify.
Their popularity also took a big jump after the
Baylor upset. The NCAA tournament is a unique sporting event, and it captures
the interest and imagination of people all across the country.
For Native Americans, Shoni’s shot over Griner was a
symbolic victory over all the adverse giants that have besieged and overrun
their lands and nations over the last 500 years. The only equivalent of that is
the victory in college football of the Carlisle Indian School over the Cadets of
Army in 1913. That Army team included future WW II generals Patton, Bradley and
I think the Schimmels are also big because they are
a sister act and have different personalities and styles. There is something
there with which everyone can identify.
It is also important to Native Americans how the
University of Louisville and its supporters have embraced and appreciated the
Schimmels. As a result, it is not just Shoni and Jude that Native Americans
support, but it is the whole team they have adopted and support.
CARDS TRIUMPH IN NON-CONFERNCE DOUBLEHEADER AGAINST DEPAUL
Louisville 8 – DePaul 0 (six innings)
Junior Kelsi Jones went 2 for 4 with a three-run double to
help lead the Cardinals to an 8-0 win over
DePaul. Freshman Maryssa Becker got
the win, holding the Blue Demons scoreless on three hits and striking out six in
The teams played through three scoreless innings before the
Cardinals broke through with seven runs in the fourth. Katie Keller delivered a
leadoff single to break up Kristen Verdun’s no-hitter and stole second. Maryssa
Becker’s base hit placed runners at first for Brittany Duncan who reached on an
error to bring Keller home. Pinch-runner Jordan McNary stole third and came home
on a hit by Maggie Ruckenbrod. Kayla Soles singled to load the bases for Hannah
Kiyohara who drew a walk to plate Duncan. Jones connected on a three-run double
to give the Cards a 6-0 lead. She came around to score on Whitney Arion’s
sacrifice bunt to make the score 7-0.
UofL tacked on a run in the sixth when Kiyohara and Jones led
off the inning with back-to-back hits and Arion walked to load the bases for
Keller’s RBI single down the left field line for the 8-0 final.
Kirsten Verdun (12-4) took the loss, giving up seven runs on
five hits and striking out four in 4.0 innings.
Becker improved to 7-1 on the season and allowed only one
DePaul runner in scoring position when Verdun registered a two-out double in the
third. Rachel LeCoq combined on the shutout, giving up one hit in one inning of
relief. Keller was 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run. Kiyohara was 1 for 2 with two
Louisville 7 – DePaul 3
In game two, the Cardinals overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the
Blue Demons 7-3. Brittany Duncan was 3 for 4 with four RBIs while Kelsi Jones
was 3 for 3 with two runs and two stolen bases and Maryssa Becker picked up her
second win of the day to help UofL complete the doubleheader sweep and move to
20-11 on the season.
DePaul (18-8) jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first
when Kirsten Verdun and Allie Braden opened the game with back-to-back walks to
set up Mary Connelly’s three-run home run.
The Cardinals answered with four runs in the home half of the
first. Jones got things started when she beat the throw for an infield single.
Whitney Arion followed with a walk to set up Katie Keller’s two-run double which
cut the lead to one run. Maryssa Becker doubled to bring Keller home and tie the
score. Becker crossed the plate on Brittany Duncan’s RBI single to give UofL a
Louisville tallied three more runs in the sixth. Jones drew a
one-out walk and moved to second on Arion’s bunt and Becker walked to load the
bases. Duncan stepped up to the plate and ripped a three-run double down the
right field line for the 7-3 final.
Becker (8-1) picked up her second win of the day, holding the
Blue Demons scoreless while scattering two hits and striking out five in 7.0
innings of relief. Caralisa Connell got the start and allowed three earned runs
in the first. Becker went 1 for 3 with two runs and an RBI.
Verdun (12-5) took the loss, allowing seven earned runs on 10
hits and striking out two in 6.0 innings. Connolly was 1 for 3 with a three-run
homer. Nicole Pihl had the other hit for DePaul.
UofL (20-11, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) will hit the
road for a three-game American Athletic Conference series at Houston March 29-30
(Info on games courtesy of Louisville Sports Information Department)